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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-08-29
- Reviewer: Staff
In this refreshing departure from Smith’s popular international thrillers, the 15th novel from this two-time Hammett Award–winner (Gorky Park) is a clever, well-crafted, and exciting blend of WWII romance, suspense, and intrigue. Set in Nazi-occupied Venice, Italy, in 1945, just weeks before Germany’s surrender to the Allies, Cenzo the fisherman finds a young woman floating in the lagoon. He rescues her and kills a German officer to protect her. Eighteen-year-old Giulia is the sole surviving daughter of a wealthy Jewish family, now sought by the Germans, Fascists, and partisans because she can identify the traitor who betrayed her family. Cenzo is a simple fisherman, a veteran of Mussolini’s war in Ethiopia, and wants nothing to do with this war. He feels obligated to help Giulia escape her pursuers but must rely on people he cannot trust, especially his older brother, Giorgio, a handsome Italian movie star and Fascist collaborator, as well as a Nazi colonel with a curious interest in Giulia’s family. As Cenzo and Giulia wind their way through a maze of deceit, danger, and betrayal, they fall in love amid the turmoil of German retreat, Fascist brutality, and partisan reprisal. Capture, escape, a hoard of stolen gold, a forger, and a Swiss movie producer add action and passion to the novel’s unexpected plot twists, and its most satisfying conclusion. Agent: Andrew Nurnberg, Andrew Nurnberg Associates. (Oct.)
Forging new life and love in hiding
Martin Cruz Smith, who has been called “the master of the international thriller” by the New York Times, departs from his usual modus operandi to put an old-fashioned romance at the heart of his latest suspense novel.
Cenzo is an Italian fisherman who spends his nights trolling the lagoons of Venice for cuttlefish, sole and sea bass. It’s the waning days of World War II, and Allied bombers often pass over his fishing boat, headed for Turin, Milan or Verona. Venice is still occupied by the Nazis, who seem to be unaware of the hopelessness of their cause and still doggedly pursue their enemies, especially any Jews still in hiding. One morning, it isn’t fish that Cenzo finds in his nets, but a young woman: Giulia, an Italian Jew who is fleeing the German SS squad that killed members of her family.
Cenzo, who has lost both a brother and wife to the war, impulsively decides he must do whatever he can to keep Giulia out of the hands of the Nazis. That decision leads him down a potentially dangerous path, as Venice is in a chaotic state at war’s end. Nazis, Fascists and various partisan groups are lurking around every corner, trying to establish themselves before the end finally arrives.
Smith blends this glimpse into Italy’s past with a charming story of the love that grows between the poor fisherman with little hope for change in his future and a young woman raised in one of Venice’s wealthiest families. Though it lacks the tension levels of his Arkady Renko thrillers, The Girl from Venice is an enlightening look at the chaos of Italy at the end of World War II, enlivened by a romance taken straight from the pages of a fairy tale.